NEW DELHI --- The Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RInfra) has initiated defamation cases against several senior leaders of the Congress party for raising the issue of alleged cronyism in the controversial purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The legal action follows “cease and desist” notices sent by the company to many members of the Congress’s communications team – including Randeep Surjewala, Pawan Khera, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shaktisinh Gohil, Jaiveer Shergill, Arjun Modhwadia and Sunil Jakhar – around a week ago.
The Congress, over the past few months, has been attacking the National Democratic Alliance government on the issue. It has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of reversing the previous deal, which the United Progressive Alliance government had struck with the French government, leading to a cost escalation, loss of manufacturing opportunities for Indian industry, particularly the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, and to a private company like Reliance getting involved in the process.
The party has made two primary accusations against the Modi government: one, while the previous agreement provided for 126 jets to be bought at Rs 526 crore per plane, the 36 news ones will be bought at more than Rs 1600 crore each, causing a huge loss to the exchequer; two, HAL, which would have logically handled the offset contracts linked to the manufacture in India of all but a handful of planes bought in flyaway condition has the original deal remained, had lost out in the new agreement, and instead, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DSAL) – a joint venture between Reliance Defence Limited, a subsidiary of RInfra, and Dassault – was given the contract.
According to the party, the DSAL’s offset contract is worth Rs 30,000 crore. It also says that “a consequent lifecycle cost contract” worth Rs 1 lakh crore was also awarded to it.
The decision to sideline HAL and award the contract to Reliance, which had no previous experience in manufacturing fighter planes or aerospace equipment and has accumulated debts amounting to around Rs 45000 crore, became the point around which the Congress has been targeting the Modi government.
While the Modi government is yet to issue a detailed factual rejoinder to the accusations, RInfra has said that the Rafale deal was a government-to-government agreement and that the company had nothing to do with it. It has said that Dassault Aviation, which manufactures Rafale jets, chose RInfra as its offset partner on its own and without any intervention of both the governments – more like a bilateral private agreement between the two companies. (end of excerpt)
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